I’ve been AWOL, very much so, lately, for personal reasons that I have largely neglected to blog about. I went into things briefly in my last post, but for the most part, these things will stay private, at least until I have a better hold on them! So, with that in mind, I was super fortunate to be granted the chance to get away to some solitude for the weekend. Escaping the misery of Peterborough and the craziness of London was nice, and off I headed on a press trip to the grandeur of Clevedon Hall*, a picturesque and recently renovated wedding/celebration/corporate venue just outside of Bristol.
The Ultimate Wedding Venue
Now, I’m not getting married any time soon. That isn’t why I went. I do want to get married, but in all honesty, not now, and not in the UK. As soon as I was invited to Clevedon Hall, however, I fell in love with everything about it. Its beauty, its location, its charm – all absolutely divine. Located perfectly along the South West coast and in the heart of the most charismatic of all the countryside in Somerset, I knew I had to check it out.
As a grade one listed building, the architecture is stunning. Inside, the character has been protected, and when it reopened its doors last November, I doubt anyone was disappointed.
Arriving there was no different, and not a disenchantment in the slightest. I got there a little late (I left my handbag in a restaurant on the way… I mean really), but I had plenty of time to admire my stunning boudoir for the evening and freshen up. I stayed in ‘Hobby’, one of the incredible 25 exclusive bedrooms usually only available to wedding and event guests. It was the most luxurious room ever (it even had a heated toilet seat!), and I loved the finishing touches – it was crammed full of wonderful books! I love literature, so this was a cutesy, kitch addition.
The recent £3 million renovation has been put to good use, as you can see, and it truly was a delight to stay there.
Wining & Dining
Next it was on to Canapés – delicious smoked salmon offerings, hoisin duck bites and quail eggs (the latter being not really my thing though!). I mingled with other bloggers over champagne, and then we were whisked onto the starring event – the five course meal. Now this is what I had been waiting for!
After being ushered to elegantly presented dining tables with our names already laid out next to our seats, we settled into our spots for the nights and greeted our fellow diners, and the wine started flowing. Every blogger and member of the press that I met was a delight, and I was fortunate to share the table with Charlie and her lovely guest Rosanna, Emily and her boyfriend, and Porcelina and her partner.
This is bread in a plant pot. This excited me SO MUCH.
Now for the only negative. The first course was a little disappointing, but I must say that this is ONLY because I don’t like seafood. A delicately presented version of the classic Lobster Bisque was a little bit lost on me, admittedly, but other attendees remarked that it was the tastiest they’ve ever had. As each plate was placed in front of us, the ever-so-professional waiting staff timed the presentation to perfection, nodding at one another in somewhat choreographed fashion.
The beef carpaccio that followed was much more up my street, and despite eating around the slices apples and walnuts (which I’m lead to believe complimented it perfectly, but I’m just fussy!), it was an absolutely incredible dish, finished up to perfection.
My main course, pork belly with mashed potato, carrot puree, wild garlic picked from the grounds and pork popcorn (yes, this is a thing!), was like heaven in my mouth. I have never been so impressed with a main course that didn’t involve beef, and honestly, it rivalled my ventures to the likes of Dinner By Heston. I’ve actually recently discovered that I’m a little intolerant to pork – I always feel nauseous after eating it. Worth it though. So worth it.
For dessert, I had a sumptuous vanilla cream and strawberry jelly, but I picked around the fruit which finished off the dish because (shock, horror), I actually hate fruit.
Ending on some delicious chocolate truffles which melted in my fingers, let alone my mouth, I must admit I was pretty happy!
Making The Magic Happen
Now, the evening wouldn’t have been what it was without the absolutely meticulous attention to detail of all those involved. We were very privileged to be seated right next to James Matthews, Operations Manager; I have never been so impressed with an employee of any establishment before in my entire life. Oddly, I mean it as a compliment when I say that he made me feel almost inadequate – he’s achieved so much, and his drive is evident without being arrogant. With a personable character and a genuine interest in everything about Clevedon Hall, he’s exactly what the establishment needs to come alive, and since his recent appointment to the place, I know they’ll do great things. Unlike many staff members, you can tell Clevedon Hall isn’t just a job for James. He lives it and breathes it, as well as his industry. Over the years, he’s trained in all areas, from the kitchen right through to business, and so he has a rare insight into all areas, in order to talk about each aspect of the meal and grounds with the precision and passion they deserved.
It was so fascinating to hear all about the estate, from its past to its future. To watch James smirk as we bloggers and press excitedly giggled, running around trying to find the hidden vault in the bookcase. You couldn’t make it up! Nestled in a secret place, there really is a hidden passageway behind the thousands of books adorning the room, and it was absolutely wonderful (if not a little bit claustrophobic!).
Everything is thought of at Clevedon Hall, and every event is truly unique. As James says, for a special event like a wedding, you don’t want a generic experience. That’s why, at Clevedon Hall, there are no menus. They will meet with you, get to know you, and design something truly special and individual for you, based on who you are and what you like. They’ll raise the bar – and your imagination – no matter what. So, whether you want to pay tribute to Granny’s Chicken Pie, or desperately want to put a twist onto something some pretty vanilla taste buds, I have every confidence that this could be incorporated into your big day.
The Star Of The Show
I was so fortunate to get a brief chance to speak to Alan Jones, the only full time member of the culinary team and as such the Head Chef. As an experienced, more than qualified guy who has worked with some of the world’s Michelin-starred finest, he’s more than capable of this feat, and he’s the heart and soul of the treats we were offered.
He makes the experience shine with his locally sourced produce, almost all of which comes from a 30 mile radius, as do his hand-picked local helpers. Of course, quality never suffers, and this rather unassuming gentleman is the absolute gem who will make this wedding venue talked about among every guest for years to come.
Set The Scene
The following morning, we had a lovely breakfast alongside Terri and others, and then retired to the grounds after checking out. I felt pretty happy, I can’t lie – I’d had an amazing night’s sleep on the comfiest bed imaginable, and then I’d been treated to yet more food!
You simply can’t overlook the grounds – everything has been thought of. The picturesque lake. The awe-inspiring architecture of the building, left marvellously untouched. You can even have your ceremony outside! There’s even a really cool seat, wild, aromatic garlic, and amazing horticulture everywhere you look.
They just need to demolish the old primary school on the grounds, and then they’ll be well on their way to being absolutely flawless.
The Future Of Clevedon Hall
When Clevedon Hall do branch out as planned to build a hotel and restaurant, I have every faith it will be one of the nations’ most revered and talked about for many years to come. And, in the meantime, if you’re stuck for where to spend one of the most momentous occasions of your life, and you’ve got the funds to do so, I cannot stress how much I’d recommend this private, sophisticated and stylish wonderland. It will make the most magical, memorable day for all of you.
*This was a PR event which I was very kindly invited to. I am very grateful and want to thank all those involved for my time! All opinions are my own. The images are Dougie’s, my guest for my stay!